Make college free

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What Biden and Harris are proposing:

Biden never got on board with the more expansive proposals of his Democratic hopefuls — free higher education for all or wiping away all student debt. But from early on in his campaign, he’s drawn on an old favorite from his days as vice president: two years of community college, tuition-free

The former vice president said his plan will not only cover fresh-from-high-school teenagers, but older students hoping to acquire new skills. The program would also apply to trade schools.

What California is doing:

The state offers two years of tuition-free community college for first-time, full-time students. California’s major state scholarship, the Cal Grant, can also pay for up to full tuition at both two- and four-year schools — up to nearly $13,000 for a year at the University of California—for needy students who qualify. Smaller state grants help with living expenses for some students. UC guarantees that students with financial need whose families earn less than $80,000 annually will not have to pay tuition and fees.

How’s it going here?

While California provides more financial aid per low-income student than any other state, gaps in programs and the exorbitant cost of living here still make college unaffordable for many. Despite headlines that California has made community college free for all, it actually excludes two-thirds of community college students — those who attend part time. 

And while low-income students who graduated from high school within the previous year and meet academic requirements are entitled to state scholarships, that guarantee doesn’t apply to those who didn’t go straight from high school to college—and hundreds of thousands miss out each year. 

Meanwhile, students are spending an average of about $2,000 per month on non-tuition costs like housing, food and textbooks — expenses that state aid largely fails to cover.